A wise coach once said, "You think you know, but you just don't know. And you never will."
As usual, that's especially true with the Pac-10. What everyone thinks they know about the conference coming into the season is usually either proven to be true or totally dispelled by this point in the season. No Pac-10 prognosticator is perfect (as I prove every week!). With that in mind, I present you with my Pac-10 midterms.
What I thought I knew: They had players like senior tackle Khalif Barnes, receiver Charles Frederick, and corner Derrick Johnson. The problem was
they didn't have a quarterback, a whole offensive line, or any other proven
defenders. Given all that, I figured they'd probably struggle a little bit.
What I didn't know: That this team would be all-time bad. That Barnes, Frederick, and Johnson, and just about everyone else whom Keith Gilbertson could not afford to lose would all get hurt.
What I know now: The Huskies men's hoops team may finish the year with fewer losses than the football team will.
Midterm grade: D-
What I thought I knew: With a guy named Stoops running things, I
figured the defense would improve markedly. I wasn't expecting much from the
offense, though. I've said this before and I'll say it again: Arizona is the
only Pac-10 team that has never been to the Rose Bowl, and that will never
happen until they find a way to bring a top-flight quarterback to Tucson. By the
way, have there been any great Arizona QBs? If Tom Tunnicliffe is the best they
have to offer, then I don't know what that says…
What I didn't know: How many gut-wrenching losses can one team have? They went toe-to-toe with Wisconsin but lost when a last-second field goal attempt sailed wildly awry. That hurt, but they still haven't recovered from that late fumble and subsequent loss to Wazzu.
What I know now: This season may be a lost cause, but with Stoops' recruiting feats have already got the folks in Tempe running scared.
Midterm grade: D+
What I thought I knew: On paper, I thought this was a better team than
cal. I thought that if any team could survive that murderous non-conference
schedule, it would be these guys. The defense would rival U$C as the Pac-10's
best. Mike Hass would explode onto the national scene. And surely Derek Anderson
would finally have his breakthrough season, right? Right?
What I didn't know: That the LSU game would play out like it did. Really when you think about it, that game killed both teams' seasons.
What I know now: The scheduling guy in Corvallis will be looking for work soon.
Midterm grade: C-
What I thought I knew: With Kellen Clemens running things and no
defense to speak of, it looked like it was going to be status quo up in Eugene,
with track meets masquerading as Duck football games.
What I didn't know: That when the numbers got punched in, Oregon would actually have the Pac-10's best pass defense midway through the year. But I had absolutely no idea that the Ducks would cough up the ball seven times, give the Pac-10 a black eye, and stink up the joint in that galling home loss to Indiana. Indiana!
What I know now: Oregon has some players on their defensive line, most notably Devan Long and Robby Valenzuela. But on the other side of the ball, the points aren't coming fast and furious like everyone expected.
Midterm grade: C. They lose major points for that loss to the Hoosiers.
What I thought I knew: Not much, actually. Had no idea what to think
of Josh Swogger or the rest of their offense. Had no idea what Bill Doba was
going to do the plug the holes on defense. The only things I was sure of were
that the Cougs would not have a fourth straight ten-win season, and that Will Derting is a bad, bad man.
What I didn't know: That the defense would play as well it did, and then totally collapse down the stretch against Oregon. Receivers Jason Hill and Michael Bumpus are going to give defensive coordinators fits for years to come.
What I know now: Even without Swogger, this team will probably still end up going to a bowl. Whether they deserve it or not might be a different story.
Midterm grade: C
What I thought I knew: The Bruins would be decent on offense, with
Drew Olson, Craig Bragg, and Maurice Drew perhaps becoming a dangerous trio. I
was nowhere near sold on the defense, though. LB Spencer Havner is good, but he
can't do it by himself.
What I didn't know: That Drew would be averaging over 122 rushing yards per game. That UCLA would be allowing almost 257 rushing yards per game. That's next to last in the nation, by the way.
What I know now: Once again, a trip to the Bay Area has, in all likelihood, ended the Bruins' season.
Midterm grade: C+
What I thought I knew: That the offense was sure to improve its
production, both in yards and points. That the defense would be underrated at
the start of the season, but would start to get its due as the year progressed.
That the Card would start with at least a 2-2 record…maybe even 3-1.
What I didn't know: This team has speed, especially on defense and special teams. And I'm still stunned by how that U$C game unfolded.
What I know now: If Stanford plays its cards right (Stanford! Cards! Get it? Oh, never mind…), the Bay Area might recognize that there are actually two local college football teams.
Midterm grade: B
What I thought I knew: Honestly, this was my other big unknown team
heading into the season. Andrew Walter is a fine passer, and receiver Derek Hagan has become his main man. But I had question marks everywhere else? Would
their defense improve? And would Hakim Hill and the running step up?
What I didn't know: That they would still be looking for that running game midway through the year. The defense showed up, though. Well, at least until their spectacular first-half collapse last week.
What I know now: After that stinkbomb they dropped in South Central last week, they're kinda back to square one. Can they handle UCLA this week? Will they have an answer for cal? Can Stanford catch them slipping? We'll find out a lot about this team in the next few weeks.
Midterm grade: B
What I thought I knew: The Bears would have the best passing attack in
the league, bar none. Aaron Rodgers would be finding Geoff McArthur, Burl Toler,
and Johnathan Makkonen early and often. If the defense could hold up, cal would
be very dangerous. I also figured their biggest moment of truth would come with
three straight road games at Southern Mississippi, Oregon State, and U$C.
What I didn't know: Besides Hurricane Ivan changing things? That the Bears would have the best rushing attack in the league, bar none. J.J. Arrington is a hoss, and Marshawn Lynch frightens me.
What I know now: Folks, this is a good, good team. But they still have that ambush situation to deal with when they go to Hattiesburg on December 4. Or maybe they can suffer a previous ambush on November 20…
Midterm grade: A-
What I thought I knew: What else was there to know about this team?
Good running backs, great defense, fine quarterback, and Reggie Bush. Add all
that up and it equals a national championship contender. I did have questions
about their offensive line and their receivers, though.
What I didn't know: That they would absolutely dominate Arizona State like they did. I mean, the Trojans could have scored 80 on them if they wanted to.
What I know now: Unless Reggie Bush hurts himself trying to walk across the Santa Monica Bay, pencil the Trojans into the Orange Bowl.
Midterm grade: A
RANDOM PAC-10 THOUGHTS
I'm not going to lie to you: the season flashed before my eyes when Trent Edwards was crumpled on the turf in Pullman last Saturday…
Again, aggressive playcalling by Bill Cubit and crew. Following a Coug turnover, Stanford called a wide-receiver pass, and Justin McCullum hit Mark Bradford for 42 yards. Starting the second half, Trent Edwards play-faked and hit Evan Moore deep for a 67-yard score. I think they might have gotten a little cute with J.R. Lemon's option pass near the goal line, but I appreciate the fact that it was called…
If only the Card can find a way to execute a knockout punch. They're being called, they're just not being executed right now…
Lorenzo Alexander is a big-time force. The Bruins had some problems on short yardage, and he was the big reason why. He could make someone very happy on Sundays in the fall very soon…
In the aftermath of their 45-7 shellacking of Arizona State, U$C receiver Chris McFoy was asked to compare the Sun Devils and the cal Bears. He replied, "Cal was just better. Arizona State seemed like they were scared." Can't argue with that. Penalties, blown assignments, all-around bad play… the Sun Devils certainly played scared against the Trojans…
Not a Pac-10 thought, but… tough way to lose a ballgame, a Big-10 title, and in all likelihood a Heisman Trophy, Kyle Orton…
Not a Pac-10 thought, but… if there's a tastier sandwich than the Steakhouse Beef Dip at Quizno's out there, someone please let me know…
Not a Pac-10 thought, but… not that he would ever do this, but how much do you think Curt Schilling's bloody sock would go for on EBay?
Not a Pac-10 thought, but… how do you folks on the East Coast watch prime time sports, knowing that the games will not end until well after midnight?
TV programming note: yet another double dip of the Farm Report this week… Friday evening at 7:00pm and Saturday morning at 8:30am on FOX Sports Net Bay Area. I guess they have to compensate for the lack of NHL programming somehow!
The ever-dependable Derek from San Francisco writes:
"The one thing that bothered me most about the ND game was our lack of running game. The offense has got to be more balanced, to run the clock, rest our defense and mix things up against opposing teams. For some reason, we're not getting it done in the second half, and our D is tiring out in the 4th, as you pointed out, the difference in first downs is all-telling. I think it's some combination of J.R.'s sore leg, injuries to our O-line, the lack of a natural fullback, and perhaps play-calling. Where are the little runs (your small plays cliché) to keep the defense honest, draw the safties up and help out our passing game?
Is it time to start looking for a new coach?"
No, it is not time to look for a new coach.
You do bring up something that I honestly hadn't thought of...the lack of a true fullback to help open up the holes. Having all those tight ends is nice, but having a good FB is better. Where's Casey Moore when you need him?
And at least our offense as actually getting downfield... we couldn't say that the last two years!
cal @ Arizona. In 2006, assuming both Stoops and Tedford are still around, this will be a heck of a matchup. But this is 2004, so this won't be much of a contest. The Bears will literally run all over the Wildcats. I like cal by 24.
UCLA @ Arizona State. This could be very intriguing. UCLA can't stop the run at all. Arizona State can't run the ball at all. UCLA can run the ball all day. Arizona State had success stopping the run, at least until last week, anyway. Who wins? I think it's the team that can throw the ball better. That's why I like Arizona State by 10.
Washington State @ Oregon State. Both of these teams have shown that they can make the worst mistakes at the absolute worst times. And the reigning king of mistakes in the Pac-10, of course, is Derek Anderson. I think the Beavers are a better team, but I have a funny feeling the Cougars' defense puts a hurting on the Beavers. I like Washington State by 9.
Washington @ U$C. Ummmmmm………. no. I like U$C by 32.
Last week: 4-0 (straight up), 3-1 (ATS).
This year: 9-3 (straight up), 7-5 (ATS).
-- Got a thought on this column or on Stanford sports? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org! The ones I like best will end up in next week's E-Mailbag.
Troy Clardy is a reporter for the Stanford Cardinal Farm Report, which airs Saturday mornings on Fox Sports Net Bay Area. Clardy hosts "Stanford Sports Weekly", which airs Wednesday evenings at 8:00 pm on KNTS (1220 AM) in San Francisco. He also hosts Cardinal men's basketball pregame shows on Stanford radio network flagship station KNEW in San Francisco, and "College Football Today" on KNBR 1050 in San Francisco.
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